Schwarz poised for Hyundai points in dusty Cyprus Leg two of Cyprus Rally proved to be even tougher than the first but Hyundai's German crew Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer put in a gritty performance over the demanding terrain to end the day...
Schwarz poised for Hyundai points in dusty Cyprus
Leg two of Cyprus Rally proved to be even tougher than the first but Hyundai's German crew Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer put in a gritty performance over the demanding terrain to end the day in a well-deserved seventh place. Unfortunately Belgian team-mates Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets saw their rally come to a close in the morning after dust took its toll on their Accent's engine.
The opening stages of the second day were tough and were an example of how the leg was to continue as no less than 23 crews were forced into retirement, eleven of which were leading competitors. Stage five is claimed to be the slowest stage of the World Rally Championship with crews averaging 50kph over its 15km distance. The longer Asinou - Nikitari which followed was also a car breaker causing a host of problems and the two tests prompted a long string of retirements.
Armin Schwarz drove with determination throughout the day but despite continuing difficulties with overheating differentials his pragmatic approach paid off as rivals fell by the wayside. Armin lost third gear at the start of the 25.61km Asinou - Nikitari (SS6) and was forced to continue through stage seven as well before he was able to return to service for a gearbox change.
In the second group of stages Armin and co-driver Manfred set more competitive stage times and reached the penultimate service in seventh which they defended until the end of the day.
"The shocks went off in stage eleven and in stage twelve - the very rough one - you need as much movement available as you can to cope with the conditions but we just didn't have it so I eased off. Even without that, the speeds through SS12 are even slower than Safari," commented Armin. "We were going so slow that the car got hotter and hotter which gave us more wheel spin and the diffs suffered. I'm trying to go at a speed I know the car can take and that means I'm taking no risks."
"It's strange because on the last two events we have put in good performances but we've failed to finish because of silly problems. Here our performance has not been great because of the conditions but we're still going and I'm quite happy about that," he added.
The slow opening stage of the day, whose longest straight section is about two car lengths, puts an amazing strain on the best world rally machine and an extraordinary amount of dust played havoc with many. By the end of the following stage the air filter on Freddy Loix's Accent had taken on board so much dust that it became clogged and finally starved the engine of air needed to keep the temperature down.
"The car didn't feel right as we left service this morning. We didn't have lots of warning lights, it just became progressively more difficult to drive and then the temperature warning light came on and eventually we stopped," explained the 32-year-old Belgian.
Reflecting on the last few events Freddy added: "We seem to have had a bad run over the last few rallies but every event has been different and every problem has been different. It's very hard to make progress when we're always facing these difficulties."
News from our rivals
Attrition was high and problems were rife on leg two. Drive shaft problems for the reigning World Champion forced Marcus Gronholm to tackle much of SS5 with front-wheel drive only and the Finn retired before starting the next stage. Tommi Makinen (Subaru) saw any hopes of victory fade on the sixth test after dropping almost 27 minutes to change a damaged wheel. Despite going on to set three fastest stage times, the roadside repairs took longer than the permitted amount of lateness and checking into the time control before stage seven 20 minutes late forced him out. The two Fords of Francois Duval and Markko Martin lost engine oil pressure due to the amount of dust build up sidelining them about 6km into the opening test, and Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) stopped with a similar problem on the following stage. Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) landed on a tree stump after a jump in SS9 damaging his engine and team-mate Didier Auriol dropped out with electrical failure after SS10. Things went from bad to worse for Peugeot when Richard Burns' engine gave up the ghost after overheating on the rough Galatareia - Nata (SS10) and Pykalisto followed suit on the road section before stage eleven.
Petter Solberg (Subaru) leads the drastically diminished field - now only 18 out of a total number of 51 starters. The last remaining Peugeot of Harri Rovanpera lies 25secs behind in second and Citroën youngster Sebastien Loeb holds third but a huge 2min 19secs adrift.
The third and final leg features a group of three stages that are run a second time in the afternoon, to cover the final 82.86km of competition. Crews reach the Limassol finish ramp at 15:20hrs